Following a Florida swing that featured a quartet of unlikely winners, many of the game's biggest stars are battling either injury or a slump in current form - if not both. None moreso than world No. 1 Tiger Woods, who remains sidelined with a bad back as the Masters quickly approaches.
Woods has completed just 14 competitive rounds in 2014, with no finish better than his tie for 25th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. As questions grow louder over Woods' ability to catch and surpass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 career majors, Graeme McDowell believes that the aura that once surrounded the 38-year-old during the peak of his career has dissipated.
"He's lost that sort of force field of invincibility around him," McDowell told reporters in an article that appeared Wednesday on PGATour.com. "The aura is not as strong. He's still Tiger Woods, still the greatest player ever in my opinion.
"I don't remember the first time I played with him, (but) there was a real 'wow' factor. He was playing a different sport than me. But guys get older, stuff happens."
Woods won seven of 11 majors contested during a stretch from 1999-2002, but he last hoisted a major championship trophy at the 2008 U.S. Open. Since that victory at Torrey Pines, parity has emerged in the game's biggest tournaments, with 19 different players combining to win the last 22 majors - a stretch that includes McDowell's triumph at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
In recent months, that parity has also led to some of the game's rising stars winning with regularity on the PGA Tour. The current crop of young guns includes 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, 23-year-old Patrick Reed and 24-year-old Harris English, who have combined to win six times since June.
According to McDowell, the newest members of the PGA Tour no longer view Woods as an invincible foe, a belief that may have contributed to Woods' dominance from 1997-2008.
"They're not out there believing he is unbeatable because the positive press that happened for 10 years has been replaced with some negativity," McDowell told reporters. "There's a belief level now that you can be 19, 20, 21 (years old) and capable of doing it at the biggest level."